The Nameless Horror

Writers who already release their works under Creative Commons licenses – an alternative to copyright, which permits forms of reuse and reworking – do so for a variety of reasons, such as encouraging extracts and fan translations.

Over the weekend, and from the Observer of all places, an example of the bizarrely common misconception that Creative Commons licenses have anything to do with copyright. It’s a grant of rights to distribute/use/create derivative works from something with certain limits, and leaves copyright well alone to the original creator. I’ve seen authors get this wrong, usually when discussing piracy (“A license to steal copyright!” etc.), and it’s really not that hard to grasp. Grant of rights. Distribution/usage under given terms. That’s all.

Creative Commons does have its own ‘CC0' tool for releasing work to the public domain, but that's very rarely used (it was only through Google that I learned it even existed; I've only ever seen their regular licenses in play). Even then I'm not sure if it affects copyright; it may simply 'copyleft' the work like the GNU GPL.

Scrivener: Compiling for MultiMarkdown

As much for my own reference as anything else, here’s what you actually need to do to get regular word-processor-style text (first line indent, single return between paragraphs, all that jazz) in Scrivener compiled into proper MMD syntax, line breaks and all, because the manual (at least for 2.3) is missing a few vital points. (Note that I haven’t used images or notes, all that jazz (not even a stray link), so this isn’t everything, just the vital basics of text formatting and paragraph breaks.)

  • Select your ‘Draft’ folder or whatever contains your whole, complete, document. Go to Format > Convert > Bold and italics to MultiMarkdown Syntax and click on it. This will replace your italics with single asterisks, bolds with double. (If you don’t know what Markdown is and this is meaningless, see Daring Fireball. I use MD to write all my online stuff, including this very post, and MultiMarkdown is Fletcher Penney’s expansion of the John Gruber original. It’s a lovely way of producing properly structured documents easily using only simple syntax.)
  • While you’re doing this, you might as well use the same Convert menu item to straighten smart quotes and drop any stray double spaces you’ve missed.
  • You might notice that there’s a Format > Text > Remove All Tab Stops option to strip first line indents (which you don’t want in Markdown). Clicking on this will zero-indent all your paragraphs and (for some reason on mine at least) double-line-break them instead. Perfect for MD! Or not. Those indents are still there as tabs, and your paragraphs are not double-returned. If you compile now, you’ll see. And, if you’re like me, fume with rage. Solution: CMD+F to open the Find & Replace window. Enter Opt+Tab (that is, click in the box and press Opt/Alt+Tab) in the Find box and it will produce a tab space. Enter nothing at all in the Replace box and click Replace All. It will find all the tab characters in your document and remove them, rather than merely hiding them. Hooray!
  • In theory, you can use the same technique to double-return all your paragraphs (CMD+F, Opt+Return in ‘Find’, Opt+Return+Return in ‘Replace’, select ‘Replace All’), but this crashed Scrivener when I tried it on a 70,000 word document so I don’t recommend it. Instead, click Compile and choose MultiMarkdown in the pulldown Compile For: menu at the bottom. While you can monkey with the usual separators (I’m a quad-dash HR man myself), meta-data etc. settings, the key one you need is Replacements. Make a new replacement by clicking the plus sign. In the Replace column, click and enter (press) Opt+Return (it’ll show a blank, but that’s cool). In the With column, click and enter Opt+Return+Return (it’ll show two blanks as you hold down Opt and press Return twice, but that’s also cool). Now Compile.
  • Hey presto! Blank lines separating paragraphs, no indents, all your bold and italic text asterisked as it should be. Everything works. Plain MMD text ready to edit, copy to your blog-posting window of choice, whatever.
  • (For what it’s worth, there are a billion choices for recompiling MMD into RTF, DOC, PDF or anything else; it’s going the other way that’s the trick.)
  • (Also, I need to auto-replace chapter headers with versions between double-hash marks to render them as H2 (or your header tag of choice) under MMD, but that should be trivial.)

It’s taken me ages trawling the Scriv forums to cobble together this solution - the pressing Option and Tab/Return to enter characters you normally can’t in text boxes is vital. I’d have thought - pretty please, Scriv people - auto-parsing paragraph returns into doubles when compiling for MMD and auto-removing single tab indents would be at least tickbox options since you need these things to properly display the most elementary of text in Markdown, but apparently not.

And the results are in!

Not that you can see the entries yourselves yet, of course, but the winner of Crimeculture’s alt-Holmes flash competition, as chosen by yours truly, has been announced. All ten shortlistees will be published on Crimeculture in July, and they’re well worth a read; expect linkage as and when.

Thanks again to Kate Horsley for asking me to don my wig and gavel (the latter something I’ve been banned from waving around in public since that unfortunate incident in 2007), and if you’re one of the non-winning entrants, please don’t hate me. I’m lovely.

Review: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat

I’m waaaaaaay later (to the tune, Finder tells me with its ‘file info’ stats, of a whole year) to this than I wanted, and I haven’t yet even finished it, but here’s the non-quite-complete book review for Andrez Bergen's superbly-titled darkly humourous sci-fi film noir hybrid thing Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

You can, if you follow that link to the publisher, read it for yourself, gratis, and decide if it’s worth paying actual money for (seriously; Another Sky Press puts its e-ditions out for download, with a ‘pay what you thought it was worth’ arrangement if you like them, which is very cool), and that’s probably the best way to see what it’s about. I won’t go into the plot, save to say it’s a character-driven noiry thing set in a near-future/alt-present Melbourne. If you picture Blade Runner mixed with Sam Spade and A Scanner, Darkly, you’re probably in roughly the right area.

It’s very good stuff. The writing’s sharp, Floyd (the main character), is likably miserable, and while it has its feet planted squarely in Bogart’s shoes (though it also has other feet elsewhere, so you might imagine it as some sort of centipede if that helps) it always stays the side of good rather than cheesy. The plot’s nice and convoluted and grimy, the titular goat is there, as described, and everything moves along very nicely indeed. And it has one of the finest titles there is.

I commend you to the downloadatron.